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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Fatima Al Taei

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Fatima Al Taei stars in Justice, the procedural drama set in Abu Dhabi that is now available on Netflix. The 18-part legal series originally premiered on OSN HD in 2017 and is now available for streaming with subtitles in 20 different languages.

    Al Taei first attended NYFA in 2009 in Abu Dhabi. Since then, she has gained steady work as an actress, including a lead role in When the Autumn Blooms, Saudi Arabia’s first longform drama series.

    Justice (Qalb Al Adala) was created by Oscar nominee Walter Parkes (He Named Me Malala) and Emmy award-winning producer William Finkelstein (LA Law) and was filmed and produced in Abu Dhabi by Image Nation and Beelink Productions. The story follows a passionate lawyer, Farah, who rebels against her father’s firm and sets out on her own to become a defense attorney. 

    Netflix Justice

    The series uses actual cases from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department as a basis for their stories, and was directed by Ahmed Khalid. In a recent Harper’s Bazaar Arabia piece, Al Taei’s character was called a “strong, ambitious” lead”—an important milestone for female representation on television in the Middle East.

    New York Film Academy spoke with alum Fatima Al Taei about her experiences at NYFA and filming her culturally important lead role in Justice:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Justice?

    Fatima Al Taei: When I was learning at NYFA, they made sure not to tie me into a specific technique—they taught us different ways to get into the character and it helped me in different situations during the shoot, being flexible and open yet focused and specific.

    Also, they taught me how to deal with other actors and directors. NYFA was a lab for me, with great helpful tutors!

    NYFA: Can you speak a little about your experience playing a strong, ambitious Emirati woman? Do you see yourself as a role model for other Emirati women?

    Fatima Al Taei: It was a unique experience. We had the opportunity to shoot inside actual courtrooms, because all the cases are based on true events.

    Playing a strong Emirati woman is the same to me as playing any “strong woman,” an inspiration for all women to follow what they believe in no matter what kind of pressure they may be under. So it’s not only for Emirati women, but for all women. 

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    Fatima Al Taei: NYFA will teach you so many things. You will be surrounded by people who have the same passion, which is good networking as a start. 

    But NYFA will not do the job you have to do—you have to secure your dream and make it happen. If it takes months or years, studying at NYFA won’t be a waste unless you give up. Many students disappeared after graduation because they didn’t have enough patience and didn’t want to get out of their comfort zone.

    The industry is not much in interested in your specific acting techniques (these are your tools.) If the industry is interested in “You” they will work with you—your attitude and passion is important, so MAKE THEM WANT TO WORK WITH YOU.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates actress and alum Fatima Al Taei on her success and encourages everyone to check out her legal drama Justice on Netflix! 

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    March 1, 2019 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 947

  • Short Film Associate Produced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Student Aya Hamdan Competes at Sundance

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    Dunya’s Day, a satirical short film tackling class privilege and associate produced by current New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary student Aya Hamdan, is premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as part of its international shorts competition. The film is notable for its all-female, Saudi cast, who give complex, layered performances that are generating a lot of buzz.

    The film, written and directed by Raed Alsemari, tells the story of Dunya, who struggles to throw the perfect graduation party after she’s abandoned by her domestic help. The film already has the honor of being the first Saudi film to have its premiere in Saudi Arabia, with an IMAX screening at the Vox Cinema at Riyadh Park organized by the General Culture Authority, represented by the Saudi Film Council.

    Aya Hamdan Dunya's Day

    Hamdan first attended NYFA’s 1-week Filmmaking workshop before enrolling in the Academy’s Documentary Filmmaking 1-year conservatory in New York City, where she is being prepared by professional, distinguished faculty members for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.

    Hamdan is grateful for the support she has received from the Documentary school staff while working on Dunya’s Day. She tells NYFA, “I want to thank Andrea, Tracie, Joao, Claudia, and Maxine for all of their support.”

    As part of her curriculum, Hamdan is working on several documentary shorts, including a social issue film and a thesis film that she will shoot in her home country, the Kingdom of Bahrain. She also plans on working with Alsemari on his next film, possibly a feature set in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

    “He has the creativity and drive to positively influence the perception of Arab women in the media,” Hamdan says of writer/director Raed Alsemari. She adds, “I am truly thankful and proud to be part of this journey. I love this film and what it represents not only for Saudi Arabian cinema but for cinema across the Middle East. I can’t wait for it to be shared with a wider audience; it touches on a universal topic that anyone can relate to, but through the stories of the fierce women of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.”

    Aya Hamdan Dunya's Day

    Hamdan served as associate producer on Dunya’s Day. In addition to Alsemari, the crew includes Sarah Elnawasrah as producer, Oliver Theurillat as director of photography, and Tamara Kalo as production designer, and stars Sara Balghonaim, Rahaf Bazian, and Ayah Bazian. 

    The first screening of Dunya’s Day at Sundance is Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at Prospector Square Theater. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking student Aya Hamdan on the Sundance premiere of Dunya’s Day and looks forward to following her work as she completes her studies!

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    January 23, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 866

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Lujein Ashi

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailLujein Ashi is a filmmaker, graphic designer, and storyteller who works for Saudi Arabia’s leading oil company, Saudi Aramco. In August, Lujein completed the 4-week Filmmaking workshop at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus after winning a scholarship with a 1-minute video. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) met up with Lujein to find out what her experience was like with the program, and what her plans for the future include.Lujein Ashi

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): So, how did your interest in coming here start? 

    Lujein Ashi (LA): I’ve always loved filmmaking stories since I was a child. I told stories to my sisters before we’d go to sleep, stuff I’d make up. I remember there was one moment that really stood out to me in my life. I went to watch Lord of the Rings in the cinema. I was with my friends. When we left everybody was so happy, but I felt sad. I didn’t understand it then. I understand it now. I felt like I was on the wrong side of the screen, like I was the one who was supposed to be giving people that feeling, not people giving that feeling to me. So, stories have always been a part of my life. 

    When it came time to choose what I wanted to study in college, I had to choose something that was practical. In the Gulf, we don’t have many opportunities for film, but then the New York Film Academy came to Bahrain to do a promo. I went and I just sat there and listened to [Dean of Enrollment Services] Tami Alexander do the presentation. She was really sweet. 

    I told her one day I’m going to come — hopefully, if it’s meant for me — and I signed up to their newsletter. I think it was like a month or two later, I get an email saying there was an opportunity for two scholarships for Saudi students. They want to encourage Saudi filmmakers because they’re opening cinemas in Saudi. 

    I saw the email late. I had two days to come up with my 1-minute video. I’ve never done a film before, but I knew I could write. So I wrote a script really fast and I did a very little video. I must have done something right, because she contacted me and told me I was one of the two students that got the scholarship. I was really, really happy. I cried hysterically.

    So I came here. It’s been a crazy four weeks. It’s just so amazing, the collaboration that you have with people… people that were strangers to me on Day One are like really close friends. There’s nothing like it, really. It’s everything I thought it would be, and even more.

    NYFA: Why did you choose the city of Los Angeles?

    LA: I think there’s no place better to learn filmmaking than in Los Angeles because it’s the hub of worldwide, excellent movies. It’s where the Hollywood industry is. Universal, Warner Brothers… all of these places, they’re all here. So there’s no place better to learn filmmaking.Lujein Ashi

    NYFA: What did you learn about filmmaking?

    LA: It’s all about story, that’s for sure. If your story is weak, then it doesn’t matter what you’re going to do. It’s not going to be something that touches people. Also technically the camera is your eye. You need to be one with the camera. You have to look through it, and if you don’t like what you see then you’re not going to like your movie. 

    I mean, it’s not like people can imagine what you meant, you know? So you have to be aware of the technical stuff. Which [at first] was very hard for me, because I’ve never touched a camera before, but Charlie did a really good job teaching us.

    NYFA: Is this something you want to continue doing? What’s your plan after this?

    LA: I found my heart here. I really did. It’s an amazing thing to find. People live their whole lives trying to find that thing they love. I think that’s the key to a happy life. I really feel like I found it here. I’m really going to try and do my master’s in this. Hopefully, then I could just do this for as long as I can. 

    NYFA: Do you see opportunities opening up in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain? 

    LA: Yes, for sure! Especially with the opening of cinemas, the government has been opening different entertainment entities trying to open things up to the people. I think there’s definitely going to be a demand for that. It’s going to be an exciting time for Saudi.

    NYFA: As Saudi opens up, is there a place there for you? Do you see yourself working there?

    Lujein AshiLA: I don’t know. I mean, sure, if there’s a place for me in Saudi to make great movies. I would love to. I mean, it’s my country. But to me, my geographic location was never something that was important. I’m very multicultural. My father is from Saudi, my mom’s from Lebanon, I lived in Baghdad, and I’m married to a Palestinian. I come from very different places, so I never felt like I belonged somewhere. Sometimes it’s a disadvantage, but sometimes it’s an advantage. Wherever you are, you feel like you can just connect with people because you’re from everywhere, basically. 

    So yeah, I mean, I could be — for example— in LA or in New York or anywhere with like-minded people, trying to do the same thing, just doing what we love; ultimately making somebody feel something. That’s why we go to the movies, right? Because we want to feel something! I could make somebody feel like Lord Of The Rings made me feel or Game of Thrones or any of these shows that have changed me so profoundly. It just amazes me how somebody could get that feeling out of you. It’s so satisfying. 

    NYFA: You mentioned two high-fantasy titles — is that kind of your thing?

    LA: I love fantasy, yeah. I mean, I love getting out of the real boring world and leaping into somebody’s imagination. That’s something out of this world! 

    NYFA: Why do you think stories are important?Lujein Ashi

    LA: I think they make people feel empathy for one another and understand each other on a level that maybe we don’t. In real life, there are a lot of issues that, when a film sheds light on them, could actually bring people closer together. You know, I think arts and filmmaking have the capacity to change people’s lives, to change societies and to open people up.

    Truthfully, it’s fundamental for our growth. It’s fundamental for us to connect and to see the point-of-view of other people. If I saw it from your perspective, which is what film lets you do, maybe I’ll be able to connect with you and understand you.

    The New York Film Academy wishes Lujein Ashi the best of success with her future endeavors, and hopes to see more of her amazing and beautiful stories in the near future!

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    December 5, 2018 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 746

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses Wins Best Cinematography Award

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailJameelah Rose del Prado Lineses has won several awards for her various film projects since attending New York Film Academy (NYFA), and last October, she added another. At the 8th Annual International Film Festival Manhattan, Lineses earned the Best Cinematography Award for her music video, Atareek.Jameelah Rose Lineses

    The 2018 International Film Festival Manhattan (IFFM 2018) opened on October 17 and ran until October 21, with its awards ceremony held on October 18 at the Philippine Consulate in New York City. Lineses screened Atareek at the Producers Club Theaters, just a few blocks from Times Square. Saudi Vice Consul of the Saudi Arabian Consulate, Mazin AlMouallimi, was in attendance at the event.

    Atareek is “a journey to the colorful streets of Old Balad” that explores “the beautiful history of the city’s rich culture and heritage.” It was the only film representing Saudi Arabia at this year’s festival, and was shot, directed, edited, and produced by Lineses, who was assisted by her mother throughout the shoot.  

    Lineses picked up a lot of the skills necessary for filmmaking, from pre-production through post-production, at the New York Film Academy, which she first attended in June 2011 when she enrolled in the 8-Week Filmmaking workshop. Two months after that, she deepened her studies and attended the 1-Year Filmmaking program at NYFA’s New York City campus.

    Atareek was filmed in 2017 entirely in Jeddah during the Atareek festival and is the third production Lineses has made that features Historic Jeddah. Her previous films, Historic Jeddah and Our Journey to Hijaz, have garnered significant praise from multiple festivals in the last several years. 

    In addition to Atareek, Lineses worked on two other films that were Official Selections at IFFM 2018. She was Associate Producer on Reunion as well as Assistant Director, Editor, cast member, and one of the producers of Mindanao. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses on her film Atareek and her latest award win!  

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    November 30, 2018 • Cinematography, Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1009

  • NYFA Alumni (& Brothers) Maan & Talha Bin Abdulrahman Are Saudi Film Trailblazers

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFive of the nine films premiered by Saudi Arabia at Cannes this year featured the work of NYFA students and alumni, including brothers and fellow BFA Filmmaking graduates Maan Bin Abdulrahman, producer, and Talha Bin Abdulrahman, director. Together, the brothers founded Prince of Arabia Entertainment, and have helmed an impressive series of award-winning projects.


    Talha’s NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, screened at the 14th Dubai International Film Festival as well as the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, Irvine International Film Festival, Orlando Film Festival, San Antonio Film Festival, and Chandler Film Festival.

    At Cannes, the brothers presented Film School Musical, which they co-directed. Winning over critics and audiences alike, the musical short won the Best Shorts Competition at the Hollywood Comedy Shorts Film Festival as well as the Jury Prize for Best Musical and Best Cinematography, garnering numerous festival award nominations along the way.

    Additional film credits include Under the Concrete (Winner: Qomrah 2), Served Cold (ShortsTV, Winner: 2014 Student Filmmaker Awards Film Festival), and Not This Way (Winner – Golden palm in Dammam Film festival).

    We’re exciting to see the next steps these brothers take in both the Saudi and international film industry.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • Welcoming Saudi Culture to the New York Film Academy

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn Monday, April 2, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to host Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Culture (GCA) at our Los Angeles campus as a part of the Authority’s “Saudi Cultural Days.”

    Traditional Arabic coffee and caramelized sesame-covered dates were served, as Saudi students mixed and mingled before a screening of student work in the New York Film Academy’s theatre, followed by a Q&A.

    “Today is about embracing our culture, and inspiring kids from all over Saudi,” Rakan Anneghaimshi said with enthusiasm. He and Maan Bin Abdulrahman hosted the Q&A with legendary Hollywood producer Ted Field, best known for both Jumanji movies, The Chronicles of Riddick franchise, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and much more.

    During the event, NYFA had the honor of hosting distinguished guests including Khaled Al Saqer, Meshal AlSaleh, Abdulaziz AlMutairi, Faisal Al Houli, and Abdulla Alsaboosi. News channels from Saudi Arabia, including Saudi Channel 1 and Rotana, were also in attendance.

    From left to right: Aziz AlMutairi, Faisal AlHouli, Khaled AlSaqer, Dan Mackler, and Meshal AlSaleh.

    Preceding the Ted Fields Q&A, NYFA screened seven short films for these impressive guests, each directed and/or produced by a Saudi student or alumni. Each filmmaker had the incredible opportunity to show these guests their passion for cinema, and display skills they had gained by dedicating themselves to the craft of storytelling at NYFA.

    Following the screening of the short films by NYFA students, Guest Speaker Ted Field said of the work, “I was truly touched … The editing was masterful; the pacing was perfect … whatever mentoring was involved was first class.” Field said he could tell the instructors have a considerable amount of passion for what they do. Convinced that the students’ work could be accepted into Sundance and Cannes film festivals, he also encouraged the students to submit their films to the Academy Awards.

    New York Film Academy Dean of Enrollment Services Tami Alexander said of the event, “The Academy is very proud of our Saudi students and alumni, and we are honored to be able to host the GCA at NYFA Los Angeles. What a wonderful way to celebrate Saudi Culture, our students and the important work the GCA is doing. We look forward to future collaborations.”

    The mission of the GCA involves creating change, delivering to the world something unique from Saudi Arabia, and increasing cultural acceptance through art such as film, music, and theatre. After a 35-year ban on theatres in Saudi Arabia, as of December 2017, The Kingdom is embracing the cinematic arts by opening theaters across the country. According to the GCA’s VP of Foreign Affairs, it is a massive step forward for Saudis, who can now contribute more directly to this global and unified language.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Saudi’s General Authority for Culture, our honored guests, and all those involved in the creation of this event for their contribution to this important mission.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • Director & New York Film Academy Grad Aymen Khoja’s Feature Debut is First American-Saudi Film Collaboration

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe Arabian Warrior is not only the very first American-Saudi film production, but has also celebrated its premiere in Saudi Arabia at a historic moment, just as the Kingdom celebrates the opening of its movie theaters for the fist time in 35 years. The film follows Anmar, a young Saudi man who dreams of becoming a professional football player. It’s a deeply human story about navigating the tension between following one’s dreams, honoring one’s family and traditions, and finding one’s own way in a complicated world.

    After an incredibly successful red carpet premiere covered by major news networks in Dubai, the film is screening across the Middle East with Grand Entertainment — and soon the world, with a distribution deal with MultiVisionnaire Pictures, and an upcoming digital release on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

    In the midst of his busy opening month, director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Aymen Khoja found the time to sit down with the NYFA Blog via email to talk about the film, the Dubai screening, and what’s next.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    AK: Passion and ambition. My active soul pulled my body from all the challenges I faced to the city of angels to study what I’ve dreamed of: becoming a filmmaker!

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most?

    AK: Filmmaking is the best way to get into people hearts! People would listen when they see things through films more than if you talk to them face to face. Plus, I love inspiring people with what I believe is right. Also, I love putting a smile on people’s faces!  

    NYFA: Can you tell us what brought The Arabian Warrior project to life? How did the film come about for you?

    AK: Young people always fight to achieve their goals against their parents, society, or any challenges could stand in front of them. I wanted to explain the pressure young people face when it comes to making their choices about what they want to be in the future.

    NYFA: The Arabian Warrior tells a story that highlights some tensions between a young man with a dream to pursue a non-traditional career, and his parents’ concerns for his future. What resonated with you about this story?

    AK: I’ve seen this situation around me with friends, family. To me the most important question is, how can the son reach his goals but at the same time respect his parents?  

     

    The Arabian Warrior poster via IMDB

    NYFA: Congratulations on screening The Arabian Warrior in Dubai! How did this event come about? Can you tell us a bit about the process of organizing the screening and how it feels leading up to the screening?

    AK: Thank you! It feels wonderful.

    I’d love to thank Dubai for welcoming my first of all time film premier! It was a super exciting process from very the beginning, when we signed Grand Entertainment to distribute our film in the Arab region.

    Big thanks to Isaac, who really worked everything out! It just can’t get better!

    Our film played in 48 theaters all over the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Fantastic success. I thank God, and everyone who helped me with this achievement.   

    NYFA: Did anything surprise you during filming, or where there any hurdles you overcame? Any words of wisdom for our students from your production experience?

    AK: A lot of surprises and many challenges, from losing locations, working with actors, staying within the budget, getting creative shots to save the day, etc.

    Advice I can give: be collaborative. Listen. Build a fantastic positive team. Move on. Don’t get stuck with one challenge; fix it and move on.

    Director Aymen Khoja via IMDB

    NYFA: What’s next for The Arabian Warrior?

    AK: It will be released on digital platforms in the U.S. and Canada: Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. We’ve signed with an international distributor worldwide, MultiVisionnaire. The film already has been released on TV, in some part of Asia and Africa.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    AK: I’m developing three projects at the same time. I prefer not to speak about them now, but all what I can say is, they will see light soon inshallah!  

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    AK: NYFA is one of the main reasons for me to be at this place. I can’t thank NYFA enough. Instructors, environment, departments, classmates, everyone were super helpful. They gave me all the knowledge I needed for this wonderful journey in creating my first feature  film! I’m still in touch with all my instructors, we became like a family! Thank you, family of NYFA, from my heart.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Aymen for his interview, and congratulate him and Mohammad on the great success of The Arabian WarriorFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • New York Film Academy to Host Second Annual Young Saudi Film Festival

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Los Angeles recently announced the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival (YSFF), which is slated for Feb. 18, 2018, at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset Boulevard. A showcase of recent Saudi films, YSFF is currently accepting submissions from filmmakers.

    Director of NYFA Los Angeles Dan Mackler greets YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi.

    “Last year Saudi filmmakers didn’t have any theaters where they could show their films and creative productions. With hope and consistent effort, cinema is now back again in Saudi Arabia,” said YSFF President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi (Spring 2016 BFA Acting). “Our goal since Abdulaziz Almutari (YSFF Vice President, Fall 2015 MFA Cinematography) and I started YSFF was to have a platform to link filmmakers to each other so they can exchange experiences, knowledge, and connections. It’s going to be the same case this year.”

    Last year’s screening was attended by over 300 guests and presented eight short films. NYFA alum Maan bin Abdulrahman of Prince of Arabia Entertainment hosted the event and moderated a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers, which included Saudi Arabian filmmaker, Meshal Al Jaser (NYFA Fall 2016 BFA Screenwriting).

    Regarding this year’s festival, Director of NYFA’s Los Angeles campus Dan Mackler said, “As an international film school and home to many Saudi Arabian alumni and students, the New York Film Academy is very happy with Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen theaters. We share Rakan’s excitement for this second event and expect it to surpass last year’s impact on bringing talented filmmakers to light.”

    While the festival focuses on the work of Saudi filmmakers, submissions from around the world will be considered, particularly those from Gulf and Arab states. A panel of NYFA faculty will select eight short films between five and 20 minutes long for the showcase. Judges include film star Miraj Grbic (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), actress and comedienne Suzanne Kent (“Taxi,” The Groundlings), cinematographer Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC (“Don’t Look Now,” “Legally Blonde”), photographer/cinematographer Bart Mastronardi (“Tales of Poe”), director James Rowe (“Blue Ridge Fall”), and novelist Crickett Rumley (“Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell”).

    For a complete list of rules and to submit a short film, please submit via Google form here or on the NYFA Student hub. The deadline is Jan. 28th, so hurry to submit your film!

    The second annual Young Saudi Film Festival on Feb. 18 at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood promises to be an inspiring event attended by both young filmmakers and Saudi esteemed officials. It is free and open to the public. In addition to the short films and a Q&A again moderated by Maan bin Abdulrahman, the event will feature a light reception and a performance by NYFA’s Improv Troupe.

    YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi with filmmaker Meshal Al Jaser.

    Reflecting on the upcoming festival, YSFF President Anneghaimshi complimented NYFA’s continued involvement, saying, “I would like to thank Dan Mackler for his endless support and caring, and I would like also to thank Tami Alexander, Crickett Rumley, and Brian Dillon.” He also had kind words for those submitting films: “I wish all the best for all filmmakers applying to the festival.”

    To RSVP to attend the Young Saudi Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • “The Truth” About New York Film Academy Acting Alum Fahad Olayan

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailSince he was just a teenager, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumnus Fahad Olayan has had a solid plan for his life. Through hard work and determination, he has already achieved a lot of his dreams.

    He began his acting career in his native country of Saudi Arabia with the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash” in 2013, before going on to book several more television shows. He found success in America when he was offered a role on National Geographic Channel’s “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” where he played King Hussain in the episode “Proof of God” in 2017. Olayan’s latest project, “The Truth,” has been raking up awards. And now, he’s taken the time to catch up with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to discuss the role festivals play in the success of a film and what it was like to find most of his crew here at NYFA.

    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with acting?

    Olayan: I started when I was 13 years old. I attended school for theater. I was the supporting character in many different roles. In 2007 I began applying for jobs at production companies as an actor. I remember one of the directors was impressed by my audition. From that audition, I managed to book more than 10 TV series. In 2011, I considered moving my career to LA to pursue my dream. I studied English for two years and then went to NYFA to study acting and filmmaking. Once I graduated I immediately planned on making a movie.

    NYFA:  What was your first performance?

    Olayan: In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a production for a big channel in Dubai. It’s called MBC. It is the biggest channel in the Middle East.

    NYFA:  How did you end up at NYFA?

    Olayan: I wanted to learn how to perfect my acting skills and learn more about editing, writing, and filmmaking. It was great because it also gave me the opportunity to learn from professional people, who have been in the industry for a long time.

    NYFA: What was your favorite part of the education experience? Did you have a favorite class? Which one?

    Olayan: I got to collaborate with many new artists who are excited about making it in the industry. Each one had a fresh perspective on the craft. I also enjoyed the classes that were offered. My favorites were stunt training and sitcom. I also had the privilege of learning from Michael Zelniker. He is a mentor to me. He is an exceptionally talented individual and advisor at NYFA.

    NYFA: Why is an intensive program vital to your development as an actor?

    Olayan: It is vital because so much goes into acting. You take classes that help you learn about voice, movement, script analysis, observation, and how everything connects to each other. As an actor you need to learn about the different elements that go into the craft of acting. It broadens your horizons and makes you appreciate the art.

    Fahad Olayan With Alejandro Gonzalez

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your project, “The Truth”?

    Olayan: “The Truth” is an important project for me. It really touches home. I thought long and hard about this project for a few months because it has a very important message for the world: It focuses on racial profiling.

    Once I was ready to work on the project I met Nicolas Jung, a unique and exceptionally talented person who helped with co-writing, was the assistant director, and was one of the main actors as well. I strongly believe that this film wouldn’t be what it is without him. His outstanding writing skills and authentic acting skills took this project to a whole new level. The other actor, Dave Belvederi, and the cinematographer, Joseph Hamilton, also contributed to the success of this project. It is important to be smart and to choose a good team to work with so that there is a good collaborative environment on set.

    Once the project was completed, I submitted it to many different film festivals around the world. However, the most important festival that took notice of my film was in Saudi Arabia, where it won the award for best film out of hundreds of other projects.

    The best part was that it was awarded and announced by the King of Saudi Arabia’s son, which was a huge privilege, and it went on national news.

    NYFA: How did you prepare for this role?

    Olayan: I poured myself into the character that I played. I made the circumstance real to me. There was a lot of stunt training involved and intense rehearsal to achieve my goal.

    NYFA: Any chance for a sequel?

    Olayan: Yes, there will be a second part, I will refrain from giving too much detail to leave everyone in suspense.

    NYFA: What did you learn from making this film?

    Olayan: I learned that making a movie is not just about the name or title, it is an art. A lot of passion, imagination, and commitment goes into it. The most important thing that I learned was how to communicate with the audience. Once you get that, there is a feeling of having reached a huge accomplishment.

    NYFA: What’s up next for you?

    Olayan: Nicolas and I have written and acted together in two short films. Our first film was “Losing Life,” which won over 10 awards across the globe. In addition to all that, we have currently written two feature films and will produce one in 2018. We are currently in the preproduction process with one of the scripts and the other is in rewrites. When I am not working on these projects I am finding other ways to get ahead in my career.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Fahad Olayan for speaking with us about his work. Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumna Samantha Hamadeh Hosts Comedy Central Arabia’s “Ridiculousness Arabia”

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailIn 2010 Samantha Hamadeh graduated from the One Year Acting Program at New York Film Academy. Her 3.9 GPA should have tipped everyone off that she was headed toward great things. In just a few years Hamadeh was on Comedy Central co-hosting one of their most popular shows. Hamadeh sat down with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith, to talk about where it all began and how NYFA helped her to get where she is now.

    NYFA: When did you fall in love with acting?

    Hamadeh: I was in 1st or 2nd grade. My friend and I used to hand out little notes to people in the class to come watch our plays on the playground. There was a tree ring made of cement. That was our stage.

    NYFA: What were some challenges you faced in your craft before coming to NYFA?

    Hamadeh: Although I’m a firm believer that people are born with a talent, I still thought that there was so much that I needed to learn about myself in order to be able to understand and portray different characters. Also, I took 3 years off from the theater because I was getting a degree at university. I was nervous about getting back into the world of acting.

    NYFA: How did NYFA help you move through these challenges?

    Hamadeh: I had some of the best teachers and mentors. From Kelly Hughes to Caitlin Muelder, Scott Ferrara, Valorie Hubbard, and Anthony Montes – they were all so supportive and truly believed in me. In class, I was able to work on my technique while also developing new skills.

    NYFA: What is your best memory from NYFA?

    Hamadeh: My dream of going to film school came true! The entire experience was life changing. I also got to meet some of the most amazing and talented students who I look up to, especially Eliza Delacourt and Maria Carvalho, who are now family to me. Some of the best years of my life were in Los Angeles, both on and off campus.

    NYFA: Tell us about your show, “Ridiculousness Arabia.”

    Hamadeh: Ridiculousness is an American comedy clip show, which presents viral videos. Comedy Central Arabia got the rights and I got to co-host the Arabic version – “Ridiculousness Arabia.”

    Samantha Hamadeh | NYFA Alumni Spotlight

    NYFA: How did you become involved with the project?

    Hamadeh: I work in marketing and was at a meeting with Comedy Central because they were looking to film their stand up comedy show at my brother’s venue, Stereo Arcade in Dubai. The CC team mentioned they were also working on Ridiculousness and I got excited because I love the US version. The producer asked if I was interested in co-hosting. Obviously, I said yes.

    NYFA: What was your goal with the project?

    Hamadeh: It was pure improv so we didn’t have much time to rehearse and we filmed two to three episodes a day over five to six days. My goal was to stay focused and enjoy filming every episode. There’s no character work. What you see on tv is who I am in person.

    NYFA: What’s been the most rewarding part of being involved with “Ridiculousness Arabia?”

    Hamadeh: Being part of a production like this was a dream come true! And I enjoyed every single minute of it because I got to work with really talented guys; Mohanad, the host and Khaled, the co-host.

    NYFA: What advice do you have for an aspiring host?

    Hamadeh: You’re going to hear a lot of no’s before you get a yes. It’s hard to be patient, I know, but when the right opportunity comes along you’re going to be happy that you were.

    NYFA: Where and when can people watch your show? 

    Hamadeh: Every Sunday night on Comedy Central Arabia.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Samantha Hamadeh for taking the time to speak with us.

     

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